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Friday, May 27, 2005 | Lately, some of the best places I’ve found are nestled in neighborhoods … a small market here, and little coffee place there. Two that caught my eye, sandwiched among the condos, apartments and homes in Banker’s Hill, Balboa Park and Hillcrest, are on First Avenue at Upas. Royal Food Mart has Joe’s New York Style Deli that makes huge sandwiches from the well-known Boar’s Head brand of meats. You can also pick up that quart of milk or chips you forgot to buy at the supermarket. The deli has whole rotisserie chickens, sliced cheeses, meats and homemade salads. Most sandwiches are hefty and a good value at $4.95. Locals know to call ahead for the chicken, as it isn’t available all the time. Royal Food Mart, 3401 First Ave., in Banker’s Hill, (619) 295-7666.

For your morning java or a pick-me-up to go with the sandwich, immediately next door is Caffe Carpe Diem for all variations of coffee. They open at 7 a.m. on weekdays and make a good espresso to go with their pastry selection. It’s a comfy gathering place for the morning regulars who schmooze at a table over a coffee. Caffe Carpe Diem, 3401 First Ave., in Banker’s Hill, (619) 297-9020.

Getting away these days can be tough … however if you want a quick change of pace that doesn’t involve a plane or train, consider Paradise Point Resort & Spa and a meal at Baleen. The setting is palm trees and calm and you’d swear you were relaxing on some island. The hotel has cottages, no high-rise here. Baleen’s setting is lush garden at the edge of Mission Bay. The food is good and straightforward and one of my favorite dishes is the BLT Salad that comes piled in layers so you can mix it up yourself. The bar is comfortable, and in the cooler evenings while you watch the sunset the patio has heaters and a cozy fire pit to keep you warm. Paradise Point Resort & Spa, 1404 Vacation Road, in Mission Bay, (858) 274-4630.

Just back from presenting a stellar dinner at New York’s Beard House, Chef Gavin Kaysen and Lewis Butler of El Bizcocho at the Rancho Bernardo Inn. They cooked to a full house of 90 at James Beard’s well-known brownstone in Greenwich Village. El Bizcocho, 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive, in Rancho Bernardo, (877) 517-9342.

Marcie Rothman loves good food – no matter where it’s cooked – at home, a hole in the wall or a white tablecloth restaurant. Known as The $5 Chef on radio, television and in her two cookbooks, Marcie travels far and near with an eye on what’s current in food. You can find her at

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